This morning was beautiful, a gift in the midst of Phoenix summer heat, so I carried my coffee, toast, and book outside so that I could breathe. Arizona has opened up, but every time I step foot outside to interact with strangers, I am afraid. This virus feels like an insidious worm wriggling into our lives. It is unseen and unknown and as in most things, we fear what we do not understand.
I’ve been reading everything I can about how it acts, who it harms, and how our economy can recover from the devastation it has caused, and I’m left with one thought: if we’re prudent, we can allow our fear to graciously guide us forward.
Fear keeps us hidden and it keeps us safe. And fear enables us to grow. Both/and.
Fear has kept us in our homes, disconnected and alone, but it has also kept the most vulnerable alive. As lovers of Jesus, we care about it all. It is human to care about the people closest to us and so we focus our efforts there. How are they managing? How can I help? We raise our voices for them until they are safe.
Except we can’t stop there. It is not enough to care only for our loved ones, those we consider our people, we must work to expand our circle, ever-growing until we include those left on the fringes. Our fear can lead us to knowledge, to understanding, to compassion.
As we grow our circle and reach what we thought were the outer limits, we may be surprised at what we find. Instead of finding a few people desperate for our help, we may find another circle, also growing and expanding, voices raised, calling out for safety, but in different ways.
And they will find us.
And we will wonder which of us was left out of the conversation? Whose needs are being met and whose are being ignored? Who gets to be safe and heard and who will be left behind?
Why must we make a choice? Why can’t we all matter in this family, community, country, world? Why must some groups be sacrificed for the good of others?
What we realize as our circles grow is that this choice we have been given is not a real choice at all.
It is fabricated, born out of fear of the unknown.
So how do we reconcile our desire for personal safety while knowing that God wants the best for all of us? How do we keep connected, keep our families supported and in good health, and continue to care for the most vulnerable in our population?
I don’t have answers but I do know how to listen. I know how to listen to you and I know how to listen to God and so I’m doubling down on time.
Right now, we feel an urgency to decide, but these questions are not new. They have always existed. We have always weighed the value of the other in our decisions. The difference is that we are all encountering the realities of these decisions at the exact same moment in time. This global experience makes it both easier and harder for us to reflect on the answers that work for ourselves, our families, and our communities.
Easier, because we encounter the question together.
Harder, because we want an answer that will work for everybody, right this very minute.
We want things when we want them. Answers, books, curtains, clothing, news, everything. I’m accustomed to instant gratification, but I’m a believer in time.
Time gifts us with wisdom and reflection and the opportunity to fully consider the impact of our decisions. Time enables stories to be told and heard, opening up our world to more than what lies directly in front of us. Time allows us to make the next right decision, one step at a time.
But time gives us nothing if we do not listen. As much as I want to close my eyes to the people with whom I disagree, I can’t, because their voices matter, too. What they are saying may not be the right answer, but the fear that drives them to cry out exists and deserves my understanding.
The wriggly worm is not the virus, but fear. We are treating one another horribly as we seek solutions and it is breaking my heart.
I am not an economist or an elected official. I am simply somebody who knows I am loved by God and who knows YOU are also loved by God. That knowledge is all I need to help me make my next right step.
We are at the point where we must move forward, trying to keep one another alive while also allowing one another to live.
I trust us to make this happen.
I trust us to listen to one another and to what we need and to how we can help.
I trust us to listen to God’s guidance. When God guides us, it feels comfortable and warm and worthy of our trust. We know it is right because we can feel love expand, which is all God wants for the world.
God is there, in the stillness, guiding the way.
I pray that we remember how to open our hearts and minds and listen.